Tidal extension and sea level rise: recommendations for a research agenda to guide ecosystem management

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Ensign, S.H., and G. Noe. 2018. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16(1):37–43.

doi: 10.1002/fee.1745


Sea-level rise is pushing freshwater tides upstream into formerly non-tidal rivers. This tidal extension may increase the area of tidal freshwater ecosystems and offset loss of ecosystem functions due to salinization downstream. Without considering how gains in ecosystem functions could offset losses, landscape-scale assessments of ecosystem functions may be biased toward worst-case scenarios of loss. To stimulate research on this concept, we address three fundamental questions about tidal extension: Where will tidal extension be most evident, and can we measure it? What ecosystem functions are influenced by tidal extension, and how can we measure them? How do watershed processes, climate change, and tidal extension interact to affect ecosystem functions? Our preliminary answers lead to recommendations that will advance tidal extension research, enable better predictions of the impacts of sea-level rise, and help balance the landscape-scale benefits of ecosystem function with costs of response.